Three days in mid-September are an immersion into foreign territory and a dynamic, fun and enlightening time. At the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle, I am surrounded by professional recipe developers, cookbook authors, food photographers and publishers, and by scores of people like me, avid amateurs who enjoy sharing our take on food, wine and drink on blogs that range from wildly popular to barely noticed.
I call it “foreign territory” because many of these bloggers are serious. As a journalism professional, I’m serious about my reporting and writing, but some in this crowd take seriousness to an entirely different level. Many of them are “mommy bloggers.” Some of them have built hugely successful enterprises with their blogs, earning money from ads, sponsored posts or other arrangements with business interests. A few earn cookbook or recipe development deals, or even TV appearances. One of the great things about food is that pretty much everyone eats some every day, so there are a lot of potential readers for every blog. When I came to this conference last year, I was amazed at how many attendees see their food blogs as sources of meaningful income. True, some may be only dreaming, but the publishers and editors and advertisers wouldn’t be at this conference if none of these bloggers have any influence on consumers.
A survey by conference organizers Foodista and Zephyr Adventures confirms much of this. More than 80 percent of food bloggers measure success by their own personal satisfaction. And, while only about 20 percent measure success by revenue, the percentage who say that revenue is one of their goals has grown by more than half since the same survey last year. My initial impression is that many more people here this year take their blogs as a serious business, even if it is not a primary source of income.
What happens at a food bloggers conference? Yes, there is plenty of eating — tasting, really, except for meal times. And there is a healthy contingent of wine experts and wine bloggers present, so there will be wines to taste, as well. However, many of us are here for the educational opportunities. For example, Andrew Scrivani, one of the top food photographers in the world and one of the principal photographers for the New York Times food pages, leads two sessions on how to photograph food. Bourdeaux wine expert Ward Kadel, and the people who run successful food media companies including Foodista and AllRecipes.com.
Expert speakers are the major draw. The conference kicked off with an inspiring talk by Dorie Greenspan, one of the most important influencers in the world of cookbooks and food writing.
Keynote speaker Dorie Greenspan says let passion come through everything you write. Image via bkajino.
“I’ve never done anything because of the money, because there never was money involved in food,” said Greenspan in her IFBC keynote. “My mother didn’t want to tell the neighbors” when Greenspan took her first job in a professional kitchen. Much has changed since 1981, when Greenspan began writing. Her first article for Food and Wine magazine was published in 1983. She went on to collaborate with Julia Child, among others.
This also is a chance to explore one of America’s greatest food cities. On Friday, organizers assembled a sampling of Seattle regional foods at the conference hotel. On Saturday, attendees will be divided into small groups and dispatched to as-yet-undisclosed restaurants to experience Seattle dining first-hand.
Post contributed by Doug Levy over at WineandFoodWorld.com.